A relative newcomer to the genome sequencing world has thrown down its glove to challenge others to sequence 100 human genomes for $1000 each during a one-month period. Ion Torrent announced today that it will compete for the $10 million Archon Genomics X PRIZE, which was first set up in 2006 and was revised last October. The current rules lower the cost per sequence allowed, increase the time for sequencing, and establish that the 100 genomes analyzed would belong to people age 100 or older.
In October 2011, X PRIZE organizers had said the competition would begin in January 2013, but they got pushback from would-be contenders, who said that more time was needed to bring the technologies up to speed and to get costs in line for meeting the challenge, says X PRIZE Senior Director Grant Campany. So now the gun will go off in September 2013.
Although there were eight contenders for the X PRIZE before it was revised, Ion Torrent is the first to qualify under the new rules, says Campany. Unlike other sequencers on the market, Ion Torrent taps semiconductor technology and uses chemistry, not light, to read the DNA being analyzed. Right now, Ion Torrent is planning on using eight machines for the contest, and plans to use its newly introduced Ion Proton model for the job. According to Jonathan Rothberg, founder and CEO of Ion Torrent, the Ion Proton can sequence a human genome in about 2 hours. Already, Rothberg says they've done 30 centenarian genomes as a pilot project.